Moderate Red River flooding expected as spring thaw nears

March 10, 2022 GMT

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Moderate flooding is expected along the Red River heading into the spring thaw and that would be a happy medium considering the major drought in 2021, weather service officials said Thursday.

Local officials said minor to moderate flooding along the north-flowing river and its tributaries in North Dakota and Minnesota should be manageable in most places, including the flood-prone Fargo area. They also said it should provide needed moisture for farmers.

There’s plenty of underground storage this season, said Greg Gust, the weather service meteorologist from Grand Forks who coordinates the weather warnings. It also appears the spring weather is setting up for a favorable thaw that can absorb the moisture, especially in the southern basin where there’s more precipitation.

“I will contend that minor to moderate flooding is a good thing, generally, for the basin,” Gust said.


Officials in Fargo, which has dealt with high water off and on in the last 25 years, including a record-setting flood in 2009, are feeling secure this year. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said the city has up to 300,000 sandbags in reserve but doesn’t expect to tap into them.

Flood stage for the Red River in Fargo in 18 feet, but the city has made so many preventative changes that officials aren’t fazed until it approaches 37 feet. The updated outlook calls for a 10% chance of the river reaching that level.

“There’s a 50% chance it will get to 33.5 feet, which is easily manageable,” Mahoney said. “We will hardly have to do anything because we are all tucked up.”

Gust said there remains the possibility that flooding will again turn Oslo, the northern Minnesota town of about 320 people, into a temporary island. That’s not an usual occurrence and the town has been protected for many years by a levee.

Gust took a break from crunching the numbers to tour the basin, where he found areas of high snowpack in shelter belts and ditches due to numerous blizzards that blew the snow around.

“I did drive down from Grand Forks to Fargo, off to Bismarck and back last week,” Gust said. “I didn’t see anything that I thought was especially scary as far as overall snowpack.”